Architecture Takes the Stairs

Event: Fit-City 4: Promoting Physical Activity through Design
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.08.09
Public Context of Active Design Guidelines: Thomas Farley, MD, MPH — Commissioner, NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); David J. Burney, FAIA — Commissioner, NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC); Janette Sadik-Khan — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation (DOT); Robert LiMandri — Commissioner, NYC Department of Buildings (DOB); Matthew Sapolin, Commissioner, Mayor’s Office of People with Disabilities
Opening Keynotes: Lynn Silver, MD, MPH — Asst. Comm. DOHMH (Introduction); Professor John Pucher — Rutgers University, Bicycling Policy; Dr. Gayle Nicoll — Chair, Department of Architecture, University of Texas at San Antonio
Panel 1: Presentation of Active Design Guidelines: Karen Lee, MD, MHSc, FR CPC — Deputy Director, DOHMH; Wendy Feuer — Assistant Commissioner, Urban Design & Art, DOT; Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Department of City Planning; Victoria Milne — Director, Creative Services, DDC; Keith Wen — Acting Director, Code Dev. & Interpretation, DOB; Laurie Kerr — Senior Policy Advocate of Sustainability, Mayor’s Office
Panel 2: Responding to Active Design Guidelines: Linda Pollak, AIA — Partner, Marpillero Pollak Architects (Moderator); Nancy Biberman — President, Women’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCo); Betty Chen, AIA — Vice President of Planning, Design & Preservation, Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC); Kirsten Sibilia, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP — Chief Marketing Officer, JCJ Architecture; Andrew Dent — Vice President of Materials Research, Material ConneXion
Active Design Case Studies: Jean Oei — Architectural Designer, Morphosis (New Academic Building for Cooper Union) & Charles McKinney, ASLA — Chief of Design, Capital Projects, NYC Parks & Recreation (High Line)
Organizer: AIANY; DOHMH

Courtesy AIANY

“We have engineered physical activity out of our lives,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the new Commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH); more than 75% of people don’t engage in exercise. While it was only his first day — actually his first hour — in his new position, he looked the part: “He has the lowest BMI of any commissioner,” commented David Burney, FAIA, Commissioner of NYC Department of Design and Construction. All joking aside, obesity, and the chronic diseases associated with it, is a serious problem in the U.S., and NYC is no exception. How can design — applied to infrastructure, urban planning, and buildings — alleviate this public health epidemic? Fit-City 4 sought to address this question by bringing together public officials, health professionals, architects, and designers to participate in a series of panel discussions at the Center for Architecture.

The DOHMH with the Departments of Design and Construction, Transportation, and City Planning have developed New York City Active Design Guidelines. Available this fall, the document will present design strategies to support the integration of healthy behaviors into the daily lives of all NYC residents. As a dense urban environment, the city affords the options of biking and walking. “‘Pedestrian’ may mean boring elsewhere, but in NYC it means ‘fabulous’,” believes Alex Washburn, AIA, chief urban designer at the Department of City Planning. Biking, however, is much more popular in Europe, cited Rutgers Professor John Pucher, who has lived car-free in New Jersey for 37 years. He pointed out that fewer women and seniors ride bikes in the U.S., probably because of safety concerns.

Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn discussed initiatives to create a safer biking environment in the city, such as the newly segregated lanes on 9th Avenue. So far, she says, 200 miles of new lanes have been created as part of PlaNYC. Betty Chen, AIA, vice president for planning, design, and preservation for Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation, added that Governors Island, where cars are prohibited, recently invited the public to participate in Free Bike Fridays.


Seriously New: Design Awards — Projects

Event: Design Awards Symposium — Project Winners
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.03.09
Speakers: Hangman Zo — Executive Director, H Associates (KIA), Joel Sanders, AIA — Principal, Joel Sanders Architect (Gangbuk Grand Park); Tim Bade — Partner, Stageberg Architecture: Bade Stageberg Cox (PSi: Summer Blow-Up); Johannes M.P. Knoops, Assoc. AIA, FAAR — Principal, Johannes M.P. Knoops (Marriage Bureau; The Office of the City Clerk, The City of New York); Sudhir S. Jambhekar, FAIA, LEED AP — Senior Partner, FXFOWLE Architects (Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing); Michael Manfredi, FAIA — Partner, Weiss Manfredi (Wandering Ecologies); David Maestres — Associate, TEN Arquitectos (Xochimilco Master Plan and Aquarium)
Moderator: Lori Pavese Mazor, AIA, LEED AP — Associate Vice President for Planning and Design, NYU
Organizer: AIANY
Sponsors: Benefactor: ABC Imaging; Patrons: Cosentino North America; The Rudin Family; Syska Hennessy Group; Lead Sponsors: Arup; Dagher Engineering; The Durst Organization; HOK; Mancini Duffy; Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Sponsors: AKF Group; Building Contractors Association; FXFOWLE Architects; Hopkins Foodservice Specialists; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; JFK&M Consulting Group; KI; Langan Engineering & Environmental Services; MechoShade Systems; New York University; Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; Rogers Marvel Architects; Steelcase; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Tishman Realty & Construction; VJ Associates; Weidlinger Associates; Zumtobel Lighting/International Lights

(L-R): Gangbuk Grand Park by Joel Sanders Architect (Honor); PSi: Summer Blow-Up by Stageberg Architecture: Bade Stageberg Cox (Honor); Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing by FXFOWLE Architects (Merit). (L-R bottom) Merits: Marriage Bureau by Johannes M.P. Knoops; Wandering Ecologies by Weiss Manfredi; Xochimilco Master Plan and Aquarium by TEN Arquitectos.

Courtesy AIANY

With discussion about how many conceptual projects often take decades to realize, the winners in the Projects category of the 2009 Design Awards may be impervious to the current economy, whether they are planned for construction or not. Thus, the presentations felt more like a salon than a symposium.

The two projects that received Honor Awards most likely will never be realized. Stageberg Architecture: Bade Stageberg Cox’s PSi: Summer Blow-Up was short-listed in this year’s P.S. 1/MoMA Young Architects competition to design a temporary installation for the P.S. 1 courtyard, but not selected. The team wanted to explore “how to do the most with the least” by rethinking where materials are sourced and transported, said Tim Bade. The goal was to fit the entire installation in the back of one pickup truck, and the design solution used inflatables that could be easily set-up, deployed, and reinstalled in another space.

Gangbuk Grand Park, by Joel Sanders Architect, won second place in a competition sponsored by the city of Seoul. The design sutured two sides of a valley with three bridges, linking a park to the city center and surrounding communities. According to Joel Sanders, AIA, the firm wanted to create a hybrid of architecture and landscape with bridges and programmatic overlaps. Three different types of trails were proposed — “learn, play, relax” — affording park-goers the chance to invent their own experience. The bridges, stated Sanders, thicken the trails, providing for built-in activities such as skateboarding.

When Johannes M.P. Knoops, Assoc. AIA, FAAR, heard about the Mayor’s plan to move the Manhattan Marriage Bureau from the McKim, Mead, and White Municipal Building to Worth Street, in a facility designed by Drake Design Associates, he developed a plan to elevate the institution, literally and figuratively. Knoops wanted couples to be both in love with each other and with the city, and what better way to do that then atop the 40-story Municipal Building. The roof would be wrapped in translucent panels emulating a wedding veil blowing in the wind.

“The public is hungry for new and serious ideas about architecture and ecology,” claimed Michael Manfredi, FAIA, when speaking of Weiss Manfredi’s shortlisted plan for the Lower Don Lands in Toronto. Accepting the nature of the existing flood plain, the team set out to reintroduce wetlands and create recreational fields out of spillways. The firm also proposed preserving an overhead expressway, referencing the area’s industrial history.

TEN Arquitectos is currently working on the Xochimilco Master Plan and Aquarium, straddling ancient Aztec lakes in southern Mexico City. Intending to restore the area as a major tourist attraction, the master plan establishes cohesiveness among a flower market, rowing park, aquarium, and water treatment plant. According to firm associate David Maestres, the challenge is “to bring nature to its original essence, making sure there is balance between architecture and nature.”

When the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Crossing is completed in Dubai in 2012, the bridge will hail as the longest spanning arched bridge in the world. Sudhir S. Jambhekar, FAIA, LEED AP, senior partner at FXFOWLE Architects, dispelled the notion that Arab countries are unconcerned with mass transit, claiming, “Their aspirations may surpass ours.” The bridge will have six traffic lanes in each direction, able to carry 20,000 vehicles per hour, with a center track and station in the middle of the bridge for Dubai Metro’s Green Line. Originally planned as a single span, the firm proposed two separate arches that meet on an artificial island.

Patient-Friendly Design Is Prescribed for Health Facilities

Event: Building Type Awards Symposium — Health Facilities Winners
Location: Center for Architecture, 06.10.09
Speakers: Joan L. Saba, AIA, FACHA, NCARB — Principal, NBBJ; Charles Siconolfi, AIA — Director, Health Care Practice, HOK; Joseph Tattoni, AIA — Principal, ikon.5
Organizers: AIA New York Chapter
Sponsors: Patrons: Cosentino North America; The Rudin Family; Syska Hennessy Group; Lead Sponsors: Arup; Dagher Engineering; The Durst Organization; HOK; Mancini Duffy; Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects; Sponsors: AKF Group; Building Contractors Association; FXFOWLE Architects; Hopkins Foodservice Specialists; Ingram Yuzek Gainen Carroll & Bertolotti; JFK&M Consulting Group; KI; Langan Engineering & Environmental Services; MechoShade Systems; New York University; Pei Cobb Freed & Partners; Rogers Marvel Architects; Steelcase; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Tishman Realty & Construction; VJ Associates; Weidlinger Associates; Zumtobel Lighting/International Lights

(L-R): CHOMP Expansion by HOK; Building for the Third Century by NBBJ; The center for Wellness by ikon.5.

Courtesy AIANY

Utilitarian and sterile, the modern hospital has typically favored function over form. But recently, medical professionals have started considering the evidence that good design contributes to patients’ wellness. The Health Facilities category of the AIANY and Boston Society of Architects Building Type Awards recognizes architecture firms that have brought excellent design to health care-related building projects. A symposium brought together representatives from the three winning firms: Joan L. Saba, AIA, FACHA, NCARB, of NBBJ, for the Building for the Third Century at Massachusetts General Hospital; Charles Siconolfi, AIA, of HOK, for the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula (CHOMP) Expansion; and Joseph Tattoni, AIA, of ikon.5, for The Center for Wellness at the College of New Rochelle.

The Building for the Third Century will provide much-needed patient rooms and procedure spaces for the busy Harvard-affiliated hospital. Saba described NBBJ’s design, which includes open atria and garden spaces organized around a “cracked square” — the floor plan features a diagonal line of public spaces that interrupts the broad areas of private patient rooms and nurses’ stations.

Similarly, HOK’s addition to CHOMP elaborates an existing diagonal that organizes the hospital’s floor plan. For this project, the intention is to respect the overall shape as well as the fine details of the original 1972 building by Edward Durell Stone. With floor-to-ceiling windows at corridor terminations and in patient rooms, HOK sought to improve patients’ experience by visually connecting them with the surrounding bucolic coastal landscape.

The design of ikon.5’s Center for Wellness aligns with the College of New Rochelle’s educational mission, according to Tattoni, by aiming “to educate about total wellness, a complete body/mind preparedness to approach the world.” It does so through spaces that guide students through the center’s several functions: gymnasium, classroom, meditation spaces, and natatorium. The center’s use of granite blocks inside and out, as well as its broad roof garden, integrates the building with the college campus aesthetics.

Although each project dealt with very different circumstances and clients — from a leafy college campus to a cramped urban teaching hospital — symposium moderator Richard Thomas challenged the award winners to describe the themes common to each project. “If we were here 10 years ago, I don’t think we would be seeing projects with this concern for the whole of the human experience,” said Siconolfi. Thomas agreed, citing health care clients’ increased attentiveness to the “principles of patient-friendly design,” backed by scientific studies that show the measurable effects of architecture on patient outcomes.

High Line Offers New Slant on City Views

Event: High Line Section 1 Media Preview
Location: The High Line, 06.08.09
Organizer: Friends of the High Line

Scenes along the High Line.

Bill Millard

Most park designers wouldn’t deliberately direct views to the flow of nearby city traffic. But an amphitheater peering down onto 10th Avenue is just one of many ways the recently opened High Line offers fresh views of familiar West Side cityscapes.

With the surface of the public park some 30 feet above street level, “you see the city from perspectives you normally would never have access to,” remarked James Corner, principal of landscape architecture firm Field Operations, which led the design of the new park on a former elevated railway. The High Line’s sense of calm and seclusion seems to suit its role as a “slow park,” one designed for leisurely strolls.

More than 60,000 people visited the park in the first week alone. As a group of journalists wandered the nine-block stretch of Section 1 (Section 2 opens next year), we encountered a succession of areas with distinct characters, united by a common design vocabulary of long, thin concrete planks and simple, linear furnishings. The planks rear up to merge with wood benches, a flourish that seems sleek but not slick.

On the southern end at Gansevoort and Washington Streets, the journey begins in a woodland; further north, visitors pass through grasslands and elements such a sundeck — complete with oversized deck chairs and a shallow water feature good for cooling one’s toes — and the amphitheater, where people can look down upon the bustling avenue, as if the street life were a form of dramatic spectacle. One visitor was reminded of the highly focused view offered by the Mediatheque at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the High Line’s architects.

The High Line has spurred a much-publicized wave of development in the area, and walking along Section 1 reveals a parade of construction cranes and recent creations by Frank Gehry, FAIA, Jean Nouvel, Della Valle Bernheimer, and others. (Polshek Partnership’s Standard Hotel is unmissable, straddling the park like a giant robot.) To the west are sweeping views of the Hudson River, and a Spencer Finch art installation in one tunnel celebrates the river’s ever-shifting hues.

The new design is geared to “set up really great and unusual situations where you can view the city,” Corner said. In deference to those views, the designers chose an understated aesthetic for the park itself. However, their contemporary take on the historical structure offers subtle visual pleasures of its own. Where the planks and plantings meet, they blend together in a comb-like pattern; vegetation sprouts up between thin concrete lines. The notion of a hybrid “agri-tecture” was inspired by the once-wild state of the vegetation there, when the High Line became a postindustrial ruin after trains stopped running in 1980. For now, the northern area near 20th Street, where the plantings went in earliest, best demonstrates the untamed effect. Benches and a water fountain echo the linear forms of the planks and the rail lines themselves, most of which have been retained and restored.

The designers and engineers faced their share of challenges along the way. With shallow soil, wind, and extremes of temperature, “that’s an extremely difficult environment to get plants to grow,” Corner said. Many of the 210 plant species had to be chosen for their hardiness and their ability to survive at their specific location within the park. As for the hardscape, the different rates of thermal expansion and contraction of the concrete planks and of the steel structure underneath led to fears that the planks would soon shift out of place, so engineers at Buro Happold devised a special system of expansion joints for the planks that could accommodate the movement of both materials, said Herbert Browne, Buro Happold senior project manager.

Ultimately, the park serves as a testament to the way that — with some ingenuity and imagination — old infrastructure can be put to new uses. “The big story about the High Line is the sort of economic revitalization that it has brought to the West Side, and other cities can learn from that,” Corner said. “The High Line, I think, opens the door for a little bit more experimentation with what public spaces could be.”

Future of Cities: Automobile to Just Mobile

Event: Meeting of the Minds 2009
Location: One Chase Manhattan Plaza, 06.02-03.09
Speakers: Jozias van Aarsten: — Mayor, The Hague, Netherlands; Jeb Brugmann — Founder, ICLEI & Faculty, University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership; Robert Buckley — Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation; Paul Camuti — President/CEO, Siemens Corporate Research; Tom Cochran — Executive Director, U.S. Conference of Mayors; Ron Dembo — Founder/Chairman, ZeroFootprint (Toronto); Hella Dunger-Löper — Permanent Sect. for Building and Housing, Berlin Senate Dept. for Urban Development; Gordon Feller — CEO, Urban Age Institute; Earl E. Gales, Jr. — Chairman/CEO, Jenkins, Gales & Martinez; Prof. Mario Gandelsonas, FAIA — Director, Center for Architecture, Urbanism + Infrastructure, Princeton; Jack Hidary — Chairman, & Co-founder, Vista Research & EarthWeb/Dice & Freedom Prize Foundation & Chairman, Hidary Foundation; A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA — Founding Partner + Chairman, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates; Len J. Lauer — EVP and COO, Qualcomm; Rick Lazio — Managing Director, JP Morgan Asset Management, Global Real Assets; Robert Lieber — Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, NYC; Irv Miller — Group VP for Environment + Public Affairs, Toyota Motor Sales, USA; Paul Pelosi — President, City of San Francisco Commission on the Environment; Neal Peirce — Citistates & Columnist, Washington Post Group; Bill Reinert — National Manager, Advanced Technology Group — Toyota Motor Sales, USA; Janette Sadik-Khan — Commissioner, NYC Department of Transportation; Saskia Sassen — Robert S. Lynd Prof. of Sociology, Dept. of Sociology and Committee on Global Thought, Columbia University; Aurora Tambunan — Deputy Governor, Jakarta, Indonesia; Victor Vergara — Urban and Local Government World Bank Institute; Alexandros Washburn, AIA — Chief Urban Designer, NYC Dept. of Planning; Tom Wright — Executive Director, Regional Plan Association; Robert Yaro — President, Regional Plan Association; Nicholas You — Sen. Advisor, UN-HABITAT; Susan Zielinski — Director, Sustainable Mobility and Accessibility Research and Transformation (SMART), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Bernard Zyscovich, AIA — Founder, Zyscovich Architects, Miami
Organizers: Urban Age Institute, San Francisco
Sponsors: Toyota (presenting sponsor); JPMorganChase & Co. (host); Siemens; Zipcar; Regional Plan Association; World Bank; United Nations; Cities Development Initiative of Asia; Urban Land Institute; Metropolis

The tone at futurist conferences has changed, in part because of last year’s elections and financial crash, but perhaps also because of a shift in interpretive frameworks on the part of people in a position to translate them into action. It’s less about cries of alarm nowadays, more about intersector partnerships and pragmatic incentives for progress. The background level of disturbing scientific, demographic, and economic information remains constant; even the most optimistic promoters of technological approaches to city design and resource use regularly face questions about whether any imaginable response can affect climate change and entrenched poverty. But Meeting of the Minds 2009 indicated a broad agreement that cities — particularly medium-size cities of 500,000 to 1 million residents, projected to host even more of the world’s growth than megacities — are both the site of the most critical problems and the key to workable solutions.

As organizer Gordon Feller suggested at one point, a collision between “citizen engagement” and “legacy institutions” is imminent. Among the different kinds of organizations trying to adapt to these conditions, the ones represented here agreed that none can accomplish much alone. As inventors, entrepreneurs, and corporate officials look to disruptive technologies for quick fixes, they also acknowledge planners’ and civic officials’ point that new gadgets alone won’t improve cities’ performance without corresponding social engineering. Conversely, public-sector representatives and academics recognize that green-tech solutions need economic viability: products that jaded consumers will accept, infrastructure that strapped cities can afford. Keynoter Tom Cochran, one of several panelists who agree with Saskia Sassen that “national governments can talk, talk, talk, but municipal governments have to act,” highlighted innovations at the city and regional levels while pinpointing the states (unfortunately positioned “between reality and money”) as the dinosaurs that nimbler agents need to maneuver around.

Existing and imaginable technologies are replacing speculation with concrete planning, stressing information over mobility and “multiscalar systems of enormous complexity,” as Sassen described cities, over familiar spatial forms. If Mario Gandelsonas, FAIA, is right that today’s teenagers fetishize cell phones more than cars, preferring being driven over driving, then this “culture of immediacy” is changing more than a decades-old symbol of adolescent freedom: it represents the sort of behavioral shift that reconfigures cities, provided public and private actors can jointly figure out what this new public space might look like. Large adopters of technologies (such as mobile networks or governments) tend to wait for a leader to move, as Qualcomm’s Len Lauer observed, but “once a large operator agrees to adopt a technology, suddenly the other operators become paranoid” and rush in to avoid being left behind. This pattern means that a future cityscape formed by the combination of a smart power grid and widespread wireless systems will probably emerge in fits and starts.

Gathering the day after General Motors filed for bankruptcy, this audience expressed an acute awareness that old paradigms are collapsing, particularly in the realms of transport and urban greening (where PlaNYC, represented here by Alexandros Washburn, AIA, and Janette Sadik-Kahn, is becoming an exemplary recurrent case study). Toyota spokesman Irv Miller was willing to broaden his firm’s future definition as a “mobility company,” not just a car company, not only able to make its Prius hybrid a charismatic brand but to coexist with alternative systems such as auto-sharing. Zipcar’s Scott Griffith articulated a model whereby people view transportation as a variable cost, not a fixed or sunk cost, and thus behave smarter and greener. Earl Gales’s Personal Rapid Transit, a maglev-based railcar system moving each car on less power than the average incandescent bulb uses, would add a bit of Jetsons-style aerial infrastructure to any neighborhood, but it’s not just fanciful; Gales, recalling the much-lamented Los Angeles Red Cars of his boyhood, has collaborated with former NASA engineers at Ames Research Laboratory to create a feasible prototype.

Other improvements require little or no new technology at all: Ron Dembo proposes massive-scale urban re-cladding to improve buildings’ 40% contribution to national greenhouse-gas emissions, and Susan Zielinski’s “open-source transportation” network rearranges multiple services into “mobility hubs” that ease mode shifts and vehicle shares.

Surfing these unpredictable waters calls for both realism and imagination. But does anyone in America’s hardest-hit city have the vision to rebuild GM as General Mobility?

Wright-ing a New History for Women in Architecture

Event: The Architecture of Writing: Wright, Women & Narrative, film premiere and discussion
Location: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 06.10.09
Speakers: Wanda Bubriski — Director, The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation; Lois Davidson Gottlieb, FAIA — Taliesin Fellow 1947-1948; Beverly Willis, FAIA — President, The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation; Carol Gilligan — Psychologist & Author, New York University; Gwendolyn Wright — Historian & Author
Moderator: Suzannah Lessard — Author
Organizers: The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation; Sackler Center for Arts Education


Urban myths and a number of literary works about Frank Lloyd Wright are often laced with tales of egoism, philandering, and an unbridled predilection for attention. A new film produced by The Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) entitled, “A Girl is A Fellow Here” — 100 Women Architects in the Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright,” may edit Wright’s story and radically change the view of women’s history in architecture. An interdisciplinary conversation about the untold legacy of 20th-century female architects followed a premiere screening of the film directed by Beverly Willis, a legacy in her own right.

The short film unearths the experience of more than 100 female fellows at Taliesin with a focus on six individuals who have carved a place for themselves in the legacy of women in architecture. Marion Mahoney, Isabel Roberts, Jane Duncombe, Eleanore Pettersen, Read Weber, and Lois Davidson Gottlieb all spent years studying and working under Wright at Taliesin, a place which, according to Gottlieb, “changed my life completely.”

The film’s inception lies in the discovery by Willis that Roberts, for decades documented as a Taliesin bookkeeper, was in fact an architect highly recommended by Wright to the AIA. This silent truth, glossed over in history, is one of many edited facts that comprise Wright’s unknown legacy and the record of women architects.

The film’s narrative, with first-person interviews, a scholarly investigation of the six women, and personal insight into life at Taliesin, unearths the equality with which Wright ran his studio. Founded in 1932, the Taliesin Fellowship required participants to not only work in the studio, but also fostered a communal living of crop raising, cooking, cleaning, house repairs, and manual labor. However, Wright did not assign these chores based on traditional gender roles. In fact, men did most of the domestic duties while the women fellows were out in the cornfields or making building repairs. Willis’s film subjects sing a chorus of praise to Wright as an inspiring, impartial, approachable, and provoking mentor. Gottlieb remembers him as a doer, not as a teacher. “I learned I could do almost anything.”

The confidence and passion with which Wright equipped his female fellows produced a roster of women who impacted his work and the tale of 20th-century architecture. Mahoney became the second female to graduate from MIT and one of the first licensed women architects in the world; Pettersen was the first female architect in New Jersey and also the first woman to open her own practice in the state; Gottlieb and Duncombe established a firm of their own years after Taliesin.

Wright welcomed the women to his studio, providing each with opportunities for professional and personal growth that society was not prepared to offer. So why haven’t we heard about these women in architectural history, nor about this side of Wright’s character? It is because of the innate exclusivity of writing and the disparity between the actual and edited truths, according to panelists after the film. Carol Gilligan, after recently publishing Kyra — a fictional work with a female architect as the protagonist — admits that she wasn’t aware that it was a novel endeavor to cast such a character and reflects that in her research there was a discernible lack of humanity and family life in the biographies of architects. Panelists agreed that the premise of the autonomous genius as a requisite for a successful design career perpetuates a limited view of both male and female architects, and does a disservice to the social and communal nature of the profession.

How It Began

Convention edition cover (left); notes on the second edition for the third.

Norval White

In the Fall of 1965, the AIANY Chapter, preparing for AIA’s 100th anniversary in 1967, called for proposals for a guidebook to NYC. Elliot Willensky, FAIA, and I were figuratively waiting at the doorstep, having talked of such a guide since we first met in the office of Lathrop Douglass in June 1955. We were commissioned to prepare a prototype sample that would serve to show advertisers how they could participate, front and center, at the convention. Chapter PR consultant Andrew Weil sold 80 ads that paid for out-of-pocket expenses, a secretary, photo processing, a graphic designer, mechanicals (pre-digital), and the printing of 10,000 copies given to every convention attendee. We were effectively, in the name of the Chapter, the publishers.

For that convention edition (and its duplicate trade edition, complete with ads that MacMillan found too expensive to remove) Elliot and I acted as authors of parts, editors of the whole. John Morris Dixon, FAIA, had a major role, covering much of Midtown Manhattan, Lincoln Square, and Grand Army Plaza/Prospect Park. Richard Dattner, FAIA, wrote Upper Manhattan; Roger Feinstein, Harlem and the Bronx; Mina Hamilton, Staten Island; Greenwich Village, Ann Douglas; Central Park, Henry Hope Reed and Sophia Duckworth. The balance was split between Elliot and me. But a horde of supporters in all editions added detail that none of us could have produced alone. Since 1966, when research on the first version of the Guide began, innumerable individuals have contributed information, ideas, comments, corrections, and considerable moral support.

Previous editions and reprintings have recognized their contributions in the acknowledgments. This fifth edition is a linear descendant of the original, self-published version feverishly prepared over a nine-month period for the 1967 AIA convention in NYC. Because its approach profoundly influenced subsequent updates of the Guide, it seems appropriate to credit once again those who helped the authors to set the first edition’s tone: writers John Morris Dixon, FAIA, Ann Douglass, Mina Hamilton, Roger Feinstein, Henry Hope Reed, Jr., Sophia Duckworth, and Richard Dattner, FAIA.

The second edition by MacMillan, and the third with Harcourt Brace were jointly rewritten and expanded by Elliot and myself, again with an expanded legion, upwards of 180 supporters, who contributed anything from a correction of punctuation to a suggestion for a new entry.
The 4th edition, with Crown, I did alone, as Elliot had tragically died at an early age in 1990. Elliot had been not only a friend and colleague for 45 years, but had served New York as a public servant — first as Deputy Administrator of Parks and Recreation under Mayor Lindsay; then, at the time of his death, both Borough Historian of Brooklyn and Vice Chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The fifth edition by White & Willensky and Fran Leadon, AIA, will appear Spring/Summer 2010 with Oxford University Press.

High Line Opens With Design Appeal

Since its June 9 opening, I have visited the High Line twice — once during the day and once at night. While I have some criticisms, overall the park, designed by Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a new amenity to the Meatpacking District and an example of how good design can produce successful public space.

A couple of Sundays ago, even though the line stretched down the block to 10th Avenue, I only waited about 10 minutes to ascend the stairs at Gansevoort Street. As my friend commented, it was like walking through all of the renderings we’ve seen over the last couple of years, with a mix of people and kids of all ages crouching at the plants and pointing to the skyline. The amphitheater that allows visitors to view 9th Avenue recalls Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s ICA in Boston, setting up a familiar vocabulary to followers of the firm’s work and also demonstrating a unique way to solve ADA requirements with a ramp that winds along the seats. When I saw that some of the benches had been vandalized already, at first I thought it was unfortunate. Then, I began to think that street art could add another layer to the park, referencing the city’s past in addition to the preservation of the train tracks.

My biggest criticism of the High Line is the lack of shade structures. Other than the shelter from the buildings that straddle the park, there are no opportunities to escape the hot summer sun or the occasional scattered shower. By the time I descended from the park, I needed water to rehydrate.

At night, the low lights (both in setting and luminescence), designed by Hervé Descottes, provide visitors with uninterrupted views of the cityscape. The lighting under the building overpasses is sparse, and could provide areas for future light installations as well. The only area where the limited lights are not successful — even treacherous — is at the amphitheater. I almost fell as I tried to descend the stairs to the seating area.

There is no question that the High Line is a great addition to the city, already publicly recognized as an achievement (See “Architecture Takes the Stairs,” by Murrye Bernard, LEED AP, and “High Line Offers New Slant on City Views,” by Lisa Delgado, in this issue). I plan on visiting it frequently in all seasons to experience the change in foliage, and I am excited for Section 2 to open, supposedly next summer. I also hope that the success of Section 1 will convince the city and developers to preserve the full Section 3 at the West Side Rail Yards.

In this issue:
· Rhythm Comes Alive in Midtown
· “Project of the Year” Transforms SoHa
· Mini Golfers Take On Rocket Science
· Court of Appeals Rules D.C.’s Judiciary Square
· Library is a Learning Landscape in Baltimore
· Exoskeleton Cools Dubai

Rhythm Comes Alive in Midtown


TEN arquitectos

TEN Arquitectos celebrated both the firm’s 25th anniversary and the unveiling of a new project, Cassa, a Midtown Manhattan hotel condominium designed in collaboration with Cetra/Ruddy. The building will rise 48 stories and contain 57 residences and 166 hotel rooms. The building’s windows have a punctured rhythm that are the façade’s only ornament, intending to bring the activities of residents and guests to life. Assa Properties and Desires Hotel are developing Cassa, which will include a world-class restaurant, spa, private terrace, and lounge. Construction has already begun and the project is fully funded for completion by mid-2010.

“Project of the Year” Transforms SoHa

SoHa 118.

GF55 Partners

SoHa 118, a 14-story building in South Harlem designed by GF55 Partners and developed by Artimus Construction, has been named “Project of the Year” by the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH). The 185,000-square-foot, mixed-use project consists of 93 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments offered at both market and affordable rates. SoHa 118 marks the completion of a block on Frederick Douglass Boulevard between 118th and 119th Streets. Artimus and GF55 Partners have worked together to transform this formerly neglected district into a vibrant community, with large-scale urban development on two adjacent blocks, containing five sites and seven residential buildings, with a sixth site containing a newly renovated church.

Mini Golfers Take On Rocket Science

Rocket Park Mini Golf.

Lee H. Skonick Architecture + Design Partnership

The New York Hall of Science in Queens, the city’s hands-on science and technology center, has added a new permanent exhibition called Rocket Park Mini Golf. Designed by Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, the park uses space-age colors and graphics reminiscent of the 1960s. The exhibition features two authentic NASA rockets and a nine-hole course that was designed to allow mini-golfers to encounter scientific concepts such as propulsion, thrust, gravity, escape velocity, launch window, gravitational assist, and more. For example, the hole called “launch window” forces players to pick the right time to launch their “rocket” through turning, intersecting elliptical orbit with planets and other celestial matter that will hinder its trajectory and hamper their trip to Saturn.

Court of Appeals Rules D.C.’s Judiciary Square

Historic Courthouse of Judiciary Square.

Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners

Following a four-year restoration and renovation program developed by Beyer Blinder Belle Architects and Planners, the Historic Courthouse of Judiciary Square in the nation’s capital will become the new home for the District’s highest court, the D.C. Court of Appeals. Originally designed by George Hadfield in 1820 to serve as the D.C. City Hall, the Historic Courthouse is a National Historic Landmark and one of the oldest public buildings in the district. Vacant since 1999, the courthouse was in need of a comprehensive overhaul to be restored to its original grandeur, while also in need of being transformed into a fully functioning modern courthouse. Beyer Blinder Belle integrated the expanded facilities and modern systems with minimal disruption to the historic structure.

The most significant challenge was the excavation of the new ceremonial courtroom beneath the grand south-side portico, where the original stone and brick support structure below needed to be entirely removed — with the portico in place — and replaced with a complex, steel structural framework. The new facilities, including a grand ceremonial courtroom, reception and exhibition space, and administrative facilities, were built below-grade, thereby maintaining the integrity of the historic façade. This configuration also allowed mechanical equipment to be located in the residual space between the existing foundation wall and the foundation of the new parking garage, further minimizing impact on the historic structure.

Library is a Learning Landscape in Baltimore

Multi-use “park bench” with computer work stations.

© Erik Kvalsvik

To meet the Bentalou Elementary School’s goal of improving literacy through independent study that incorporates adventure and discovery, NYC-based W Architecture and Landscape Architecture re-imagined the Baltimore school’s library as a “learning landscape.” The 2,016-square-foot flexible space was created from three smaller spaces, and includes an oversized “park bench” doubles as a casual reading area on one side, with a docking area for computers on the other. A green circular carpet provides a more casual reading area. Nine wall clocks installed over the bookshelves tell the time in Baltimore and eight sister cities around the world. Behind the librarian’s desk, a former door to the corridor is now a window allowing visibility into the space as well as displaying special reading material. Storage space was hidden behind a wall of doors, and most of the existing shelving and furniture was adapted for re-use, while new lighting, solar shading, and a more efficient HVAC system all help save energy.

Exoskeleton Cools Dubai



The exterior shell of O-14, the 22-story commercial tower perched on a two-story podium in Dubai, recently topped out, revealing a full-height concrete exoskeleton. Designed by NY-based Reiser+Umemoto in collaboration with the Creek Side Development Company of Dubai, the project is located along the extension of Dubai Creek on a waterfront esplanade. High-strength self-consolidating concrete was cast around a basket weave of steel reinforcement resulting in a perforated exterior shell. The concrete shell provides an efficient structure that frees the core from the lateral forces and creates highly efficient, column-free open spaces in the building interior. In addition, the shell acts as a sunscreen open to light, air, and views. A space nearly one meter deep between the shell and the glazing creates a chimney effect; this passive solar technique contributes naturally to the cooling system, thus reducing energy consumption by 30%. O-14 is expected to be completed in the Spring of 2010.